Washington – Connecticut lawmakers joined other Democrats Wednesday to condemn Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to hold votes on two House-passed bills that would have reformed the system the FBI uses to vet potential gun buyers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the failure of a GOP-controlled Senate to bring up the bills for consideration “an act of consummate cowardice.”
“Americans are absolutely livid that Congress has done nothing,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
The Connecticut lawmakers spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference to mark the 100th day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill – and sent it to the U.S. Senate – that would have closed what they say are “loopholes” in the federal law that allows sales at gun shows and by individuals over the internet without FBI background checks.
A similar bill was first introduced more than six years ago in response to the 2012 killing of 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. But the bill failed to garner enough support in the Senate, and the U.S. House never considered it, until earlier this year, after Democrats seized control of that chamber.
Thursday would be the 100th day after the U.S. House passed another bill, one that would extend the FBI’s current three-day deadline to conduct a background check to as many as 20 business days, closing the so-called “Charleston Loophole.”
That loophole allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, to buy a gun despite pending felony drug charges against him.
“We’re here to say to McConnell ‘Do your job,’” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., the head of the House Gun Violence Prevention Caucus.
McConnell’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Despite inaction on any gun-related legislation in the Senate this year, Blumenthal is optimistic that the political mood is changing.
“Gun violence prevention is on the ballot,” Blumenthal said, referring to a number of Democrats who won congressional seats last year by running on the issue of gun control. “We have built a political force that is growing.”
However, gun safety measures are having greater success in state assemblies. Connecticut’s general assembly, for instance, passed some tough new gun control bills after the Sandy Hook shooting and recently passed “Ethan’s Law,” which mandates the safe storage of firearms. Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to sign that bill Thursday.
And Virginia’s assembly plans to hold a special session to consider new gun control legislation in the wake of last week’s massacre at the Virginia Beach municipal building that claimed 12 victims.
The shooter, who was also killed in a confrontation with police, had used a silencer and high-capacity magazines, which allow a shooter to keep firing without having to pause to reload.
Virginia will consider outlawing high-capacity magazines and silencers, also known as suppressors.
While the Virginia Beach shooter obtained his weapons legally and may not have been stopped from purchasing guns if stronger background checks were in place, Murphy said there were 80 other Americans killed by a gun on the day of that mass shooting – and some of those may have been spared if Congress had acted.
“I get it,” Murphy said. “Republicans run the Senate. Maybe the House version of the background check bill can’t pass the Senate. But why not try?”
Murphy also said Congress should approve bills that ban silencers and high-capacity magazines.
“We’d love to pass them all,” he said.